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2011: The drought hits Odessa, Osama bin Laden killed - Odessa American: 75th Anniversary

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2011: The drought hits Odessa, Osama bin Laden killed

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Posted: Tuesday, September 29, 2015 8:40 am

Affecting just about everyone from ranchers to firework vendors, the drought of 2011 damaged the wallet and the landscape.

Meteorologists with the National Weather Service in Midland said Odessa-Schlemeyer Field received less than five total inches of rain in 2011. The total amount of rain that fell at the airport in 2010 was 11.33 inches. The 12 months from September 2010 to August 2011 were the driest on record in Texas; it took until August for Midland International Airport to get 0.10 inches of rain for the year. The drought also caused an increase in the number of grass fire calls made by the Odessa Fire Department.

In 2011, firefighters made 947 grass fire calls; an increase from 2010 where the fire department responded to only 554 grass fire calls.

The lack of water was enough to cause Ector County Judge Susan Redford to twice issue a declaration of disaster; once for the Independence Day holiday and again through New Year’s. Though the declaration can only temporarily ban all fireworks, Redford sent the declaration to the governor’s office for an extension. The governor’s office extended the declaration both times.

A tough year. The year 2011 brought many headlines that Ector County Independent School District leaders were probably glad to have behind them.

Massive budget cuts from the state led to the loss of more than 100 positions and test scores continued to drop.

State budget cuts did not stop ECISD from moving forward with new programs that cost millions. The New Tech High School opened in the fall in same building as the former Advanced Technical Center, costing more than $1.8 million. This created the state’s eighth New Tech High School. The schools, which started in Napa, Calif., in 1996, emphasize project-based learning in small groups, with each student being issued a laptop computer to use while attending the school.

Other school news:

Former Bonham teacher Bryan Dale Berta pleaded guilty in December to four counts of sexual assault of a child relating to incidents with his geography student April 23 and May 14, both at her house and at school. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

In May the district introduced “Abstinence Plus” sex education. Students previously were taught abstinence-only but now learn about birth control methods and failure rates. Texas Tech is teaching the classes free of charge to the district. They also discuss sexually-transmitted diseases. Ector County’s teen pregnancy rate was ranked 23rd of 254 Texas counties in 2008 Texas Department of State Health Services, according to the most recent available statistics.

Redistricting: The county, like the state of Texas, also had a controversy about maps regarding redistricting in 2011. Data from the 2010 Census states Ector County grew by 16,000 and the Hispanic community grew by 10 percent with decreases in the white and black populations.

After much debate, commissioners voted on proposed map 4-A, despite objections from Commissioner Armando Rodriguez. The proposed map moved 1,197 people (66 percent) of the Hispanic population from Precinct 1 to Precinct 4 in Ector County. A letter was submitted Oct. 31 by Una Voz Unida, the League of Latin American Citizens and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People of the Permian Basin to the Department of Justice claiming the map was “retrogressive.”

Shutting down: The Permian Basin Forensic Center closed its doors in the spring after not making enough money to convince owner Tommy Brown Jr. to keep it open. Redford spearheaded an attempt to keep the forensic open on the county’s dime; however, it was eventually shot down when the county was faced with an unexpected $1.7 million Information Technology upgrade. The Permian Basin Forensic Center closed its doors.

UTPB rolling: The University of Texas of the Permian Basin enjoyed a particularly fruitful growth spurt, adding $135 million in new construction to its body. The $81 million Wagner Noël Performing Arts Center officially opened Nov. 1 with a Grand Gala featuring Rod Stewart. Science also got its day in the sun as UTPB’s $54 million Science and Technology Building was completed Aug. 20. The university added a master of arts in both mathematics and mathematics education, bringing the total number of master’s degrees to 19.

Rough year: The year 2011 wasn’t necessarily more violent or crime-filled for Odessa and Ector County than previous years, but it had more than its share of tragedies sure to be remembered for years to come.

Foremost were the knifing deaths of Dick Glover, 78, and Peggy Glover, 76, in their home. Police were able to find James Doyle Burwell on May 23, the same day the Glovers’ bodies were discovered, when they discovered the couple’s Lincoln Navigator was missing. Burwell is now serving life in prison.

A 19-year-old Odessa man was shot and killed in a car-jacking Nov. 10 that ended in a wreck at 1109 E. 49th St., authorities said, but by the end of the year, only one of two people believed to be involved in fatal robbery had been arrested. Trevor Terrell Atchison was charged with capital murder in the death of 19-year-old Evan Fitts.

Walker Lumpkin, 4, was originally taken to Medical Center Hospital on July 20 with head trauma, but was transported to Covenant Children’s Hospital where he died four days later. On Aug. 2, a 13-year-old boy in the household was arrested and charged with injury to a child after the sheriff’s office reported the juvenile hit Walker with a four-wheeler and pushed him to the ground.

Court cases: In a year full of high-profile trials and plea deals, two of the most intriguing and nationally important cases never went to trial.

Larry Neil White, accused in the Sept. 8, 2007, murders of three Odessa Police Department officers, died in May 2011 before he was able to stand trial. White was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in April 2010, a return of the cancer he staved off in 2006. After numerous delays, White was headed for a May 2011 trial with a better prognosis until March 2011, when he was so sickly in the courtroom, he didn’t seem to acknowledge anything around him.

The deaths of Cpls. Abel Marquez, Arlie Jones and John “Scott” Gardner, which began with a domestic disturbance call at a house the police department had been accustomed to quelling disputes, triggered an outpouring from the community.

A statue was dedicated to the men who lost their lives in September 2010 outside the Odessa Police Department and about $500,000 was donated to the families of the fallen officers from the people of Odessa.

White was indicted on three counts of capital murder and three counts of attempted capital murder. He was pronounced healthy to stand trial in December 2010, but months later regressed, losing almost 30 pounds with the cancer progressing.

Permian impostor: Another trial of national interest was avoided in 2011 when the man formerly known as Jerry Joseph pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual assault and three counts of tampering with government records.

Guerdwich Montimer, a 23-year-old Florida man who posed as a high school basketball star, pleaded just less than a week before his trial was scheduled to start. Montimer claimed he was a 16-year-old Haitian orphan when he enrolled at Nimitz in February 2009 with the help of former Dillard High School teammate Jabari Caldwell, who also pleaded guilty. But when Montimer’s former coaches recognized him during an AAU basketball tournament in Arkansas, tips started rolling in to Permian officials and the Odessa American. The investigation began in April 2010 and by June of that year he was indicted. The investigation also yielded an accusation that he had sex with a 15-year-old girl.

Montimer was sentenced to three years in prison on each of the five counts, to be served concurrently, and with time served and the possibility of parole, could be released as early as May 2012. But the man who changed his identity and moved across the country will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

Caldwell was sentenced to four years deferred adjudication and probation for his two counts of tampering with government records and was given a $500 fine.

Headlines

  • Super Bowl XLV ends with the Green Bay Packers over the Steelers 31-25.
  • Maya Angelou awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom.
  • Elizabeth Taylor dies.
  • Prince William of Wales marries Kate Middleton.
  • U.S. forces kill Osama bin Laden.
  • Steve Jobs dies.
  • Moammar Gadhafi, who ruled Libya with an iron fist for 42 years, is killed after he is ousted by rebels.
  • Iraq War officially ends.
  • Kim Jong-il dies.

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